“Bring Costs Down”

Trump had big meetings with generals, to talk about bringing down Pentagon costs.

The funny thing is that, if Trump wanted to do that, he should be “draining the swamp” that is Washington and its network of lobbyists and beltway bandit con-artists.

Look at all those stars!

Look at all those stars! (Getty Images)

That scene looks to me like something out of a mafia movie set in the 30s: a bunch of gangsters getting together to share the word among the made men.

From Boardwalk Empire

From Boardwalk Empire

Trump: “Youse guys. Youse takin’ too much.”
General: “But we have programs! We have mouths to feed!!!”
Trump: “Yeah but youse killin’ da goose what lays dem golden eggs.”
General: “We’re most of the US economy, we can’t rock the boat.”
Trump: “You wanna work in this town, you gotta know there’s a new boss.
General: “Bosses come, and bosses go. You know the deal.”
Trump: “Lissen. If we do dis my way, it’s gonna be yuge…”

I’m looking for a silver lining in some of these clouds and one of them is that Trump understands scamming and inflating prices. There’s a good chance he’s got the Pentagon’s number, he just hasn’t figured out where the pressure points are, yet, but he will: over-padded contracts are Trump’s raison d’etre.

Meanwhile, as the folks over at War Is Boring have pointed out, the story the Pentagon brass fed Trump about the costs of the F-35 were a pack of lies. Apparently the general told Trump that F-35s will cost “only” $105 million, when an actual flyable aircraft is closer to $188 million. And if you hop in your time machine and go back to the original “special just for you price” it was $32 million. Quite a difference.

Trump: “I do like how youse guys operate.”


Back when Obama came into office and there was the big “surge” in Afghanistan, I picked up and read Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars.”  I’m not a huge fan of Woodward’s (a consummate insider) and his endless “outsider” pose, but there was one piece of it which fascinated me. Obama apparently asked the Pentagon for a plan to deal with Afghanistan, and they sent back 3 plans:

  • A load of troops
  • A bigger load of troops
  • A fucking huge load of troops

Obama said “wait! I asked for a withdrawal plan” and the Pentagon replied “even withdrawing takes a load of troops.” Basically, Woodward reports it that the Pentagon had their own plans and whatever Obama asked for the Pentagon replied with one of their plans, and nobody offered anything else.

Everything I’ve read about Trump’s negotiating strategies indicates that he uses the same trick. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. It’d be wonderful if there was a stream of 4-star generals getting pink slips. I’d give that about a 15% chance of happening, because – for all their military grandeur and big hats – the generals are bureaucrats who didn’t get to where they are without learning how to play straight-up tactics or passive-aggression. And, because of the evolutionary pressure on bureaucrat generals, they’re almost certainly smarter (if not meaner) than Trump.


Politico: Trump Convenes Pentagon brass to “bring costs down”

War Is Boring: The Official F-35 Price Tags are Bogus



  1. johnson catman says

    over-padded contracts are Trump’s raison d’etre

    Are you saying that he will actually get the costs cut (a good thing) or that he will simply cut himself in on the action?

  2. says

    johnson catman@#1:
    Are you saying that he will actually get the costs cut (a good thing) or that he will simply cut himself in on the action?

    Most likely, he’ll put one of his made men in, who’ll take their own cut. Trump’s already going to be busy stuffing as much money into his pockets as his little hands can grasp. If you see Trump put some Wall Street stooge in as secdef, then you’ll know what’s happening.

    Al Capone did make the bootlegging scene in Chicago a whole lot more efficient. And (I expect cartomancer to correct me) if Nero really did burn the slums of Rome in order to renovate them, well, it sort of worked. At this point, a massive tsunami of pink slips in the pentagon and doors slammed in the faces of beltway bandits would be the only way to get procurement out of shambolism. I don’t think it’ll happen. But if Trump actually did something like that, it’d be pretty darned awesome.

  3. komarov says

    There’s a good chance he’s got the Pentagon’s number, he just hasn’t figured out where the pressure points are, yet, but he will: over-padded contracts are Trump’s raison d’etre.

    Good grief, you’re right. The possibilites are endless. The world had better brace itself for Trump Airbase, with its 90 floor control tower, a huuuuge runway,* gilded hangars and an ajdacent golf course. Naturally the USAF will be expected to pay rent to the owner.

    *Or five.

  4. says

    He’s already setting up to have his own security replace the US Secret Service (fascinating!) and I wonder if his complaints about Air Force One are a prep for continuing to use his own jet, while charging the taxpayers rent for it. Like he did with Trump Tower during the election. The sky’s the limit with this grift! This is the yugest grift ever: 150 million+ suckers at once.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ #5: … continuing to use his own jet …

    Does he really want to give up all the interior space necessary for that flying yacht to have full commander-in-chief comms capability (not to mention nuclear-attack survival hardware, etc)?

  6. jrkrideau says

    @ 3 Komarov
    “an ajdacent golf course” Eh? I thought all military bases had a golf course, but in my country the military owns them so I suppose it’s okay

  7. polishsalami says

    I’m guessing at this stage the Deep State is still sizing Trump up. Pentagon contracts are perhaps the biggest rort in human history, and Trump has already created dramas just with his Tweets. I suspect that these folks would be content if he just joins in the grifting, but what if he actually tries to ‘drain the swamp’?

  8. Logicus Prime says

    The key to bringing down costs is to totally clean house in weapons system procurement. Given the examples of the F-35, LCS, DDG-1000 and Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle it has become obvious that the primary purpose of the military procurement establishment is to perpetuate the military procurement establishment and not provide effective and affordable weapons systems for our military personnel.